Stratford Elks (13-1) vs. Hamlin Pied Pipers (12-2), Class 2A Division II state semifinal.
When: 6 p.m. Thursday
Where: Greg Sherwood Memorial Bulldogs Stadium, Plainview.
On the air: Fans can listen www.stratfordsportsnetwork.com
The coaches: Matt Lovorn, fifth season at Stratford, 56-13. Russell Lucas, 12th season at Hamlin, 106-41. 127-60 overall.
Players to watch
Stratford: QB Walker McBryde, 177 of 263, 2,558 yards, 32 touchdowns.
FB-LB Britt McQuitty, 165 carries, 1,332 yards, 25 touchdowns, 134 tackles.
Hamlin: RB-WR Jevon Williams, 103 carries, 1,203 yards, 27 touchdowns. 26 catches, 554 yards, eight touchdowns.
QB Braydin Warner, 122 of 185, 2,092 yards, 27 touchdowns.
This game is a rematch from a week five meeting during the regular season. Stratford was on the way to gaining momentum, downing then No. 1 Hamlin, 39-6 in Abernathy.
That was 10 weeks ago, and a lot has changed since that game. Though they won handily in that first matchup, the Elks aren’t preparing for another lopsided contest this time around.
“That game was a full regular season ago,” Stratford coach Matt Lovorn said. “We’ve changed as a team since then, and they’ve changed as a team since then. We have to prepare for them at a different level. We’ll have to prepare even harder than last time.”
The Pied Pipers have caught fire since that loss to Stratford, winners of eight straight, including a 43-22 victory against Wellington in the state quarterfinals last Friday. Hamlin coach Russell Lucas says since says, even though it sounds odd, that loss to Stratford was good for his team.”
“We had just beaten Wheeler,” Lucas said. “A couple of other teams had loss, and that put us at No. 1. Stratford whipped us, and it opened the players eyes. We may have been a little over confident. But we’ve have been playing with a confidence since. Not arrogance, just confident.”
Both teams show much balance. Stratford is averaging 269 yards on the ground, and 183 yards by air.
The Pied Pipers counter the Elks, rushing for 217 yards a game and 170 passing per contest.
“Stratford is a solid football team,” Lucas said. “Everyone is at this point. But they are multiple and bring pressure from different places. They have so much energy, and are so well coached. They have a passion of playing football, and their players understand it so well”.
Lovorn echoed Lucas’ comments.
“Hamlin is playing really good football right now,” Lovorn said. “Once they hit district, they hit a different level. They can score points, and do it in so many different ways. They get after it on defense, so we’ll have to be ready.”
How Stratford got here
Bidistrict: Stratford 69, New Home 18
Area: Stratford 67, McCamey 14
Regional: Stratford 25, Gruver 6
State quarterfinal: Stratford 42, Wink 13
How Hamlin got here
Bidistrict: Hamlin 64, Menard 16
Area: Hamlin 55, Quanah 7
Regional: Hamlin 56, Wheeler 22
State quarterfinal: Hamlin 43, Wellington 22
The Statford-Hamlin winner faces the Mart-Falls City winner for the Class 2A Division II state championship.